One person dead after huge fire engulfs Sao Paulo building

Sao Paulo fire: Burning building collapses during massive blaze

The cause of the fire is thought to have been a gas explosion. A firefighter told Globo TV that they expected to find victims but did not know how many.

The newspaper reported that the military had joined the rescue effort, and was attempting to extract a person from the upper floors of the building through an adjacent property when the structure collapsed.

The building was one of some 150 abandoned properties occupied by squatters in the center of the metropolis of more than 20 million people.

The governor said it was legally hard to force people to evacuate the old and decaying buildings.

The 26-storey crashed to the ground after being engulfed in flames.

The collapse was captured on camera with images showing the multi-story building falling as flames rage.

Some 50 families had moved into the building in the Largo do Paissandu area of the city after the federal police force, which had been using it, vacated it some years ago.

Flabio Gabia, a receptionist at a nearby hotel, said: "When I went to see what it was, the streets were filled with desperate people". Many such dwellings are run like regular apartment buildings, with doormen and residents paying monthly fees and utility bills.

Footage from Tuesday (May 1) shows the scene as the inferno illuminates surrounding buildings in the Brazilian city.

Then-mayor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, had launched an aggressive crackdown on these communities. Fair-housing activists had criticized his efforts saying he should focus on creating affordable housing to the tens of thousands who need it.

Firefighters believe clearing the rubble, which was still smouldering hours afterward, could take days.

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